Premier League profile 2015/16: Swansea City
Can Swansea City pick up where they left off after their club record-breaking campaign in 2014/15? That must be the question on many a Swans supporter’s lips.
With the Welsh club priced at 6/4 with Coral to at least equal their achievement of a top 10 finish, having placed a highest-ever position of eighth in the previous Premier League season, there is every chance of further improvements.
Expectations were not exactly sky high when former skipper Garry Monk took charge of the dugout and what was a relatively unstable ship, yet the Englishman soon had Swansea, albeit temporarily, crashing the top four party.
Having guided the Liberty Stadium side to a respectable finish, narrowly missing out on Europa League places, can Monk take his men one step further?
Impressive rises to prominence usually come before a fall, and Swansea have hardly set the summer transfer market alight, yet a quiet competency and sense of realism are being exuded from the Liberty, which bodes well.
Most of the question marks surround the south Wales side’s lack of potency in attack following Wilfried Bony’s winter window departure. Prize midfield assets Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ki Sung-Yueng contributed 15 strikes to the Swans’ league cause last season, but Monk cannot rely on the tactically intelligent pair to paper the cracks once again.
Deficiencies up top still need to be addressed despite the addition of adaptable Andre Ayew from Marseille, who was quite the coup as a free agent. The Ghanaian will more than likely be used to add power and thrust from the flanks, giving great competition on the wing with current widemen Nathan Dyer, Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge already entrenched at the club.
This will, however, likely mean Monk must rely on mercurial marksman Bafetimbi Gomis, who did prove a goal threat on occasion last term, but has truthfully yet to fully grow into the role of leading man for a top tier team.
If Swansea have genuine continental aspirations, they need another fully fledged goal machine, yet the concern for fans must be that, as Michu is unlikely to ever pull on the white shirt of the Welsh club again, former Braga frontman Eder will be the only new addition in that area.
The Guinea-Bissau-born Portugal international has hit the target just once for his adopted nation, boasting a far from inspiring record of a sole goal in 18 caps, so the Swans are taking a risk if they do not reinforce further.
As for central midfield, Leon Britton, Jack Cork and still-promising Jonjo Shelvey look set to stay put to maintain squad depth and stability in that settled area, while French full back Franck Tabanou and Swedish stopper Kristoffer Nordfeldt refresh an already sturdy defence.
So, aside from a few further tweaks up front, perhaps the Swans, 16/1 to go one better and secure a top six spot, would be wise to stick with what works, maintaining fluidity while their rivals rush to gel much-changed squads.